Maritime Casualty News, May 2017

Mate’s inexperience cited in Virginia bridge strike

Federal investigators determined that the mate conning a tugboat involved in a 2016 bridge strike in the Intracoastal Waterway lacked experience navigating tows through narrow waterways. Subsequent investigation also suggested he falsified sea time needed to upgrade his license.

The 800-hp tugboat Kodiak was pushing the 260-foot open barge SJ-199 when the barge hit a fender of the North Landing Bridge in Chesapeake, Va., at 0322 on March 1, 2016. The tow also ran over a mooring dolphin roughly 750 yards from the bridge, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident report.

Kodiak and SJ-199 were traveling from Edenton, N.C., to Baltimore when the incident occurred. The mate relieved the captain at midnight and was alone in the lower wheelhouse, the report said. According to the NTSB, the mate’s first and only transit through a bridge over a narrow waterway occurred earlier in his watch. However, that transit under the Pungo Ferry Bridge over the North River was more forgiving, with a greater distance to line up the tow.

Coast Guard investigators found evidence the mate “falsified sea time to meet the criteria for receiving credentials to operate a towing vessel as mate.” The mate surrendered his license to the Coast Guard about two months after the accident.

The bridge sustained about $250,000 in damage and the barge sustained a puncture on the port corner of the rake that required about $25,000 in repairs. No one was injured and there was no pollution.

Tugboat aids disabled towing vessel

The single-screw tugboat Mauna Loa lost propulsion off the Washington coast while pushing a 320-foot barge, and a rescue tugboat responded to prevent the vessels from grounding.

The Coast Guard learned about 1300 on May 23 that the 2,200-hp tug lost its engine roughly 13 miles offshore from the Quillayute River in northwest Washington. The crew aboard Mauna Loa reported 8-foot seas and 25-knot winds at the time.

Watch standers and the tug’s owner arranged for Lauren Foss to respond from Neah Bay, Wash., while David Brusco responded from Cathlamet, Wash., on the Columbia River. Mauna Loa and its barge were about five miles off of Ocean Shores, Wash., when Lauren Foss reached them about midnight on the 24th.

The Coast Guard also dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Grays Harbor, Wash., as an emergency standby vessel.

The 8,200-hp Lauren Foss intercepted the drifting tug and barge and took them into tow, the Coast Guard said. Lauren Foss then towed the vessels to a Port Angeles, Wash., shipyard for repairs.

Lauren Foss is a designated emergency rescue towing vessel based in Neah Bay. Such vessels are part of a mandatory program in Washington supported by fees charged to vessels calling in Puget Sound, the Coast Guard said.

Towboat takes on water, grounds near Lake Charles

Crew aboard the towboat Mr. Landon purposely grounded the 60-foot vessel in the Calcasieu Ship Channel in Louisiana after realizing it was taking on water in the stern.

The Coast Guard said the towboat grounded at about 0345 on May 22 near Monkey Island in an effort to avoid sinking. Roughly 10 gallons of oil spilled from the vessel during the incident. Teams from the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coordinated the cleanup.

“MSU Lake Charles members also oversaw salvage operations to free Mr. Landon, ensuring there was no further damage to the vessel and minimizing impact to the waterway,” the Coast Guard said in a news release. “The vessel was safely refloated with the aid of a crane barge, dewatering pumps and assist towing vessels.”

Nobody was injured in the accident. Mr. Landon will reportedly undergo repairs at an Amelia, La., shipyard.

Casualty flashback: May 1961

The educational schooner Albatross was sailing from Mexico to the Bahamas with 13 high school students when it encountered an unexpectedly strong storm on May 2, 1961. The 83-foot brigantine quickly capsized and sank roughly 125 miles west of Dry Tortugas, Fla. Six people died in the incident.

Albatross was built in Amsterdam in 1920. Two years before the capsizing, Christopher and Alice Sheldon began offering educational programs aboard the vessel in the Caribbean and Pacific oceans through the organization Ocean Academy Ltd.

On the vessel’s final voyage, there were 13 students, a cook and four professional crew aboard. The schooner was hit by the storm, considered a white squall or microburst, at about 0830. At the time, the vessel was sailing to the Florida Keys to take on fuel and supplies.

Four students, the onboard cook and Alice Sheldon died when the ship heeled over. Survivors escaped into life rafts, and about a day later they were picked up by a passing freighter. The incident has become widely known, in part because of its dramatization in the 1996 film “White Squall.”

By Professional Mariner Staff